Screenwriters have to make their own luck!

For filmmakers and screenwriters alike, one of the great things about screenwriter Jurgen Wolff is his ability to make things happen. As you’ll discover in this week’s Filmmaking Stuff guest article – when Jurgen was starting out, he learned very quickly that waiting for a lucky break was a loser’s bet. He decided instead to create his own luck.

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Luck? Screenwriters have to make their own!

Everybody needs some good luck along the way, but it’s fatal to wait for it to spark your career as a screenwriter. It’s much better to make your own. Let me give you an example:

Back in the Paleolithic Era when I first went to Hollywood, I arrived with no contacts and very little money. I quickly realized that the business was not waiting for me with open arms. I daydreamed about talking to successful writers, agents, producers, and others who knew the score and getting them to tell me their inside information on how to get started as a scriptwriter. Of course those doors were closed, but then I wondered–who DO these people talk to? To journalists! But although I’d done some free-lance journalism, I wasn’t working for any publications.

The solution? I started my own. I called it The Hollywood Scriptwriter. I bashed it out on a typewriter (yes, this was just before word processing on computers took off). I did the layout myself and had it printed at the local copy shop. My first interview was with Danny Simon, comedy writer, from whom I was taking a class. My second was with a producer who’d been a guest speaker at Danny’s class. That gave my modest little publication credibility, and it got a further boost when I sent it to the L.A. Times and they gave it a nice write-up.

Suddenly the doors that usually are slammed in the face of a new writer in town opened. I got to interview Hollywood’s top TV producer, Stephen Cannell, and the creator of the TV series, M*A*S*H* Larry Gelbhart, and many more. I applied their advice and information, got an agent, and started working regularly, first writing sitcoms, then TV movies, then doing feature script doctoring.

When I started teaching screenwriting and wanted to get a bit more visibility, I and my friend Kerry Cox, to whom I sold the publication when I got too busy to do it anymore, pulled together a batch of the interviews and other materials into a book that was published by Writer’s Digest. I did another one on Sitcom writing for St. Martin’s Press,and Kerry and I did a third book of just interviews for Lone Eagle Press.

I wish this showed I’m a genius, but I’m not. I’m just a guy who realized fairly early that marketing yourself and your writing is a crucial part of what we scriptwriters have to do, and that if we’re as creative about that as we are about the writing itself, we can move forward ahead of the pack.

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If you would like more of Jurgen’s screenwriting advice, check him out at

Screenwriting Tips By Jurgen Wolff

Earlier this week, veteran Hollywood scribe Jurgen Wolff stopped by Filmmaking Stuff to offer three valuable tips and also, tell you about his upcoming mid-November screenwriting workshop in Las Vegas.

“>Screenwriting tips & workshops from 6″>jurgen Wolff on Vimeo.

For those of you interested in Jurgen’s Las Vegas workshops, CLICK HERE

Filmmaking Training From a Mentor

Mentors are role models who take a vested interest in your success. Sometimes, you meet your mentor when least expected, and they will help guide your filmmaking career.

A mentor will provide insight and will often direct you toward a successful outcome. This doesn’t necessary mean your mentor will enter into a business relationship with you, but he or she may offer necessary encouragement, advice and influence which will help you get closer to your goal. Your mentor will be there to answer questions.

Have you ever heard the phrase: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?” Even though this sounds mystical, for me, finding a mentor has always happened without planning.

When I graduated college, one of my most influential mentors appeared in my life. After sending a resume and cover letter to every film and video company I could think of (and getting no response), I finally landed an interview with a guy named Joe Surges. Joe gave me my first job in the motion picture industry.

It didn’t pay very well, but Joe was willing to teach me everything he knew. He coached me through the easy times and pushed me through the tough times with unrelenting encouragement. When I planned my move to New York City, Joe made some phone calls.

Joe connected me with a friend who then connected me to another friend who offered me my first job.

Later, I was working on a feature. When our project completely fell apart, I found myself stuck in New York with no money and rising bills. I thought it was the end of my movie making world. Heck, I even thought it was the end of my apartment. But at that time, it was Joe who told me to quit complaining and get back to work.

His advice was the best.

Then, a year later, prior to his passing, Joe told me something that’s been rolling over and over in my mind ever since. He said, “You never know which ripple will hit the shore first.”

Since that time, whenever I’m hit with a new challenge, I play those words over and over in my mind. And through this practice, I’ve conditioned myself to find the opportunity in every obstacle.

While Joe taught me a lot about writing, directing and producing, it was his values, his life standard and his expectations which influenced me to create a higher standard in everything I do.

If it wasn’t for Joe’s mentoring, I would have never gone to NYC, would have never made a movie and would have never fell on my financial face—and recovered. Consequently, I would have never made the move to California, produced features or written these words.

Mentors have been there. They reach out and help you grow as a person. And I believe mentors are essential for our success.

New Screenwriting System

In a previous post, I mentioned how my world (as an indie producer) would be a lot more fun if all the screenwriters who pitched me movie ideas actually had a finished screenplay. As you probably know, there are lot of folks with amazingly awesome ideas, but for the most part – those ideas never make their way to finished material.

Why is this?

You probably have your own opinions. But I think the major reason more writer-producers, writer-directors and full fledged screenwriters do not finish what they start is based on two very real factors:

  1. Fear of rejection. (Well, after you peel away all the excuses and reasons for procrastination.)
  2. Lack of a step-by-step screenwriting system to make your good ideas into great movie scripts.

So I wanted to announce a new screenwriting system. Based on my decade making movies (and prior to that, reading and writing coverage for a producer in New York City) – I have created a product that will provide you with a step-by-step, fill in the blank approach to writing a movie script – from the perspective of an experienced indie producer.

If you decide to utilize the system, you will see that the system consists of two parts. The first 50 pages (and over 90 minutes of MP3 Audio recording) is going to provide insight on movie scripts from an indie producer’s perspective.

The second part will provide you with a step-by-step, fill-in the blank, screenwriting template that will allow you to take your ideas out of the air and put them on paper faster than you ever thought possible.

And as you work through the system, you’ll find out what producers look for in a script. You’ll know the 7 surefire ways to get your read and not recycled. And you will also learn a thing or two about producing indie films. (Many of you are writing today, but would like to produce and direct in a few years.) By the end of this, you will know if you should sell your screenplay or produce it yourself.

If you’re interested in getting the system, or learning more, CLICK HERE

How to Write Your Movie Script

… And actually finish your first draft.

Over the past year,  I have received countless movie pitches. Some were good. Some not-so-good. This is pretty typical in LA, as a lot of people say they have a screenplay.

But the sad reality is, hardly anybody has a finished movie script.

In some cases many filmmakers and screenwriters don’t even have the first draft for a script!

So I wanted to announce a new screenwriting system. Based on my decade of making movies (and prior to that, reading and writing coverage for a producer in New York City) – I am in the final stages of production on a product that will provide you with a step-by-step, fill in the blank approach to writing a movie script.

How to Write Your Movie Script

I am also going to give you some insight as to what happens on my end.

As an independent film producer, who is constantly in the hustle, I am going to provide you with some insider producer perspective on what we look for in a screenplay.

  • How do you get your work finished?
  • When do you know it’s ready?
  • What do producers look for in a script?
  • What are 7 surefire ways to get your script recycled before it’s read?
  • I wrote a screenplay – now what?
  • Would you like to sell your screenplay or produce it yourself?

This screenwriting system provides you a step-by-step action workbook and companion MP3 audio.

To find out more about the screenwriting system, go here: